Posting in this forum, some suggestions for us all

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The genesis of this forum was the fact that religion and politics were basically bringing down the quality of the main off topic area. Now if you allow that to filter through your brain for a second you will realise just how profoundly badly that reflects on us. Seriously - a forum which has topics such as "R girl gamers real???", "Chuck Norris", "Girlchan in Paradise", "We need a replacement for Chuck Norris", and "So... Do you think KFC hates black people?" was being brought down by the political debate and philosophical discussion. This was largely due to the tone and style of that... discussion. Unfortunately, it seems to have gravitated over here to this new place, rendering this new place little more than an angry rant fest. I believe we could do better, in fact I believe we must do better or we should stop trying to claim that The Escapist is the internet equivalent of The Royal College of Physicians. To this end I have preparedeth a selection of commandments. However, just as with the real commandments, feel free to completely ignore them and do your own thing. Also, please feel free to add your own at the end. Also, due to the length of ths post, feel free to take a ten minute refreshment break after commandment #2.

1. Thou Shalt Not Post Loaded Topics.

Right:- "I have little love for Scientology. From what I have seen of it, it appears to be little more than a scam based around the ego of a not-particularly-good sci-fi writer. I am interested in what draws people to this though. Also, if you dislike scientology do you think it would be ethical to interviene in certain circumstances? Thoughts?"

This gives anyone who happens to be a Scientologist, who is sympathetic towards Scientology, or even someone with little knowledge or opinion on it the a way to post an opinion which is dissenting to the one above, without fear of being tarred and feathered by the op and people posting in general.

Wrong:- "Given that Scientologists are all freaks of nature with fewer brain-cells than a decerebrated chicken, I want to force them into internment camps until they change their minds. What would you do to them?"

In this case, nobody with a dissenting opinion would dare to post, knowing only that abuse would be likely to follow. If he did post he would be starting a flamewar. This would leave nothing but a thread of rants, trolls, and flames for any who read the thread who happened to be a Scientologist, making the forum an unpleasant place for them to come. This is wholly inappropriate. Starting a topic which is completely one sided and intended to do nothing more than gather like-minded people around you to join in your little witch-hunt is not only the height of insecurity, but is also extremely rude, bad mannered, and when directed against a particular culture/race/religion/gender, extremely bigoted too. The entire purpose of a forum is discussion. If your thread gives the other posters the opportunity to do nothing but offer agreement, then no discussion can be had. If you don't intend to actually discuss, but instead wish only to get on a soapbox and sermonize, get yourself a sandwich board and walk around your town centre.

2. Thou Shalt Answer the Spirit of a Post, Not Use Pedantry As Thy Blade.

I have never forgotten one of my earliest forum experiences. A few years ago, there was a documentary on the Nat Geo channel - Supercroc, which dealt, rather sensationalistically, with a certain fossil that was found of a crocodilian skull, that of Sarcosuchus. On a site devoted to the discussion of such things, the program was discussed. The program claimed that sarcosuchus ate dinosaurs when they came to drink, much as modern Nile crocs eat wildebeast today. However the jaws of sarcosuchus were much more similar to those of the gharial, which has jaws much too weak for such beasts and eats mainly fish. The forum thread went back and forth and was fascinating. Fish were big in the day, but this croc was huge. Gharials are fish specialists today, but are bigger than nile crocodiles. Some dinosaurs had hollow bones, so bone density wasn't such a big factor for the sarcosuchus. And on it went, until someone used the word "design" in reference to the skull shapes of crocodilians. Now for a few pages nobody even noticed this, after all, the word "design" is frequently used in nature programs when discussing animal physiology. But one absolute nutter, who was obviously overcompensating for some failing in his own life, decided to quote this post and turn the whole thing into a "intelligent design is retarded, and so are you and anyone else who used that word" diatribe, even though the word had never been used in that context. This had the unfortunate effect of taking a very intelligent and enjoyable thread, where everyone was talking politely and being nice, and driving it straight into hell. Nobody could talk about crocodiles anymore. Nobody could discuss anything that wasn't another retarded crap-fest about evolution vs everything else - even though everyone on the site believed evolution of one form or another.

If you know what someone means, and then use some grammatical technicality or some poor choice of words on their part to jump all over them, it is because you don't have a valid point against their true argument, or because you have a knee-jerk insecurity about whatever it is you thought they were posting about. If you don't have a valid point against them then either say that, or don't post. If you make an honest mistake and misunderstand, have the balls to admit to it and apologise, don't just sit there letting the whole thing fester away like an infected crocodile bite.

3. Thou Shalt Realise that Wikipedia Does Not Make One God.

Look chaps and chappesses, there is a reason that universities, colleges, schools, and all other academic institutions don't feel particularly threatened by the ability of people to type "www.wikipedia.com" into their internet search engines - it doesn't make you a fucking expert. If I am sick, I go to a doctor, I don't go to wikipedia. If I need some extremely basic knowledge of a subject I might glance in the direction of wikipedia before double checking things elsewhere. It is certainly useful for dates of historical events and such. But as for understanding the minutiae of a subject... no. So please, don't read someones post, spend ten minutes in wikipedia, then try to deconstruct everything they have said based upon that ten minutes worth of "research". Myself, being a park ranger, will take anyone in this forum to task if they think they can use a half moon as well as me. You guys think you know about cultivating daffodils? Piss off! I am the daffodil cultivator around here, and I can tell you that if you try to beat me down in a thread about daffodils by running off to wikipedia and reading up on how to grow daffodils then you are wasting your time - because I have done it frequently and seen the fruits of my labors. If wikipedia disagrees with me on how to get those daffs standing up and pretty it because wikipedia is wrong.

Thus it is with everyone else on this forum. People here are from all kinds of professions, all kinds of backgrounds, with all kinds of hobbies and interests. You have to understand that it is just possible that they may know more on a subject than you, and the reason they are not agreeing with your copy/pasted wiki posts is because they understand the subject better than you, and you have either misread wikipedia or the wikipedia article is less informed than they are. And this leads us onto our next commandment.

4. Thou Shalt See the Other Persons Point of View.

You are engaging in a social arena here, every post you make is going to be read by other people. So for order and any semblence of society to exist, we have to recognise the other persons point of view. Someone there complaining about tax hikes to help the homeless? Of course they are, they will be financially worse off. This would hurt them, and remove money from them they have worked for. Someone complaining about not having a roof over their heads while rich slobs get a million for a three day week? Of course they are, they are being hurt by the greed of the slob in question. You can't please everyone, and people from two different backgrounds will have two different views, which are completely at odds with each other, but which are both correct for that person.

We have to recognise, truly recognise, that someone whose views differ fundamentally from ours is entitled to maintain those views. No, I don't mean this in a wishy-washy "right of free speech" or some kind of failure to commit to ones own beliefs. I mean seriously accepting that this other person is a product of a different environment, different experiences, a different life and these views are right for them. Nobody has a monopoly on truth, nobody here is the ultimate arbiter of the universe, nobody here is so profoundly above the rest of the world that they have been chosen to save it by means of calling someone a retard on a video gaming website. You can't say what is right and wrong view for another person (note; if anyone brings up murder and Hitler and such at this point see commandment #2). Whatever your views are, however moral and logical you think you are, there will always be someone who will disagree with you, and for good reason.

It would help if you thought of this as a place to simply express yourself, and not a place where you need to desperately convince the world it has to see things from your point of view to the exclusion of all others.

1 is good, loaded topics just become bashings. 2 depends on the point of view. They might misinterpret the statement and question it, which is good, but pressing on an outdated statement that was revised by the author does not foster debate.

3 is essentially a prevention of debate. It's a basic use of appeal to authority, and literally prevents any sort of argument from fostering. "This is how you cultivate daffodils. Here is my evidence for my claim." "No, I'm a park ranger, I know how to grow daffodils, you're wrong. I don't need evidence because I know I'm right." See how's there's nothing to discuss? Plus, this is the internet. Anyone can be an expert on anything. I could say that I am a 60 year old professor of economics, or Bill Gates. It really doesn't change whether my argument is correct or not.

4 is problematic. Respecting others beliefs is fine, people do need to understand that people hold differing points of view. The problem comes in when you say "You can't say what is right and wrong view for another person". The other person may be misinformed, or you may be misinformed. Either way, one of you will benefit from the discussion. For example, lets say the other person is picking out a health insurance plan. He thinks X is the best. I tell him "No no no, get Y, it's cheap and more comprehensive". So either he realizes that he was misinformed about X being the best, or corrects my misinformation and points out "Y is unreliable and often don't pay up". That's the basis of learning, and out of that discussion, someone will end up better off than before.

cuddly_tomato:
Unfortunately, it seems to have gravitated over here to this new place, rendering this new place little more than an angry rant fest. I believe we could do better, in fact I believe we must do better or we should stop trying to claim that The Escapist is the internet equivalent of The Royal College of Physicians.

Well, this is a completely public internet forum which centers around gaming discussion-- if anyone is claiming that we are anything but that then I think they took a wrong turn while heading to an Elitist convention.

cuddly_tomato:
Starting a topic which is completely one sided and intended to do nothing more than gather like-minded people around you to join in your little witch-hunt is not only the height of insecurity, but is also extremely rude, bad mannered, and when directed against a particular culture/race/religion/gender, extremely bigoted too.

You seem to be doing that exact thing in this post! You say we "must do better", implying that you are on the right side of this discussion-- you even arrange your argument into a list of commandments!

cuddly_tomato:
But one absolute nutter, who was obviously overcompensating for some failing in his own life, decided to quote this post and turn the whole thing into a "intelligent design is retarded, and so are you and anyone else who used that word" diatribe, even though the word had never been used in that context. This had the unfortunate effect of taking a very intelligent and enjoyable thread, where everyone was talking politely and being nice, and driving it straight into hell. Nobody could talk about crocodiles anymore. Nobody could discuss anything that wasn't another retarded crap-fest about evolution vs everything else - even though everyone on the site believed evolution of one form or another.

Sure, insult the guy and say he's "overcompensating" because you don't agree with him-- this is how flame wars start. Even if the other guy was a troll, the only reason a discussion dissolves like that is because the people in it decide to "feed the troll."

cuddly_tomato:
If you know what someone means, and then use some grammatical technicality or some poor choice of words on their part to jump all over them, it is because you don't have a valid point against their true argument, or because you have a knee-jerk insecurity about whatever it is you thought they were posting about. If you don't have a valid point against them then either say that, or don't post. If you make an honest mistake and misunderstand, have the balls to admit to it and apologise, don't just sit there letting the whole thing fester away like an infected crocodile bite.

I agree with this.

cuddly_tomato:
Look chaps and chappesses, there is a reason that universities, colleges, schools, and all other academic institutions don't feel particularly threatened by the ability of people to type "www.wikipedia.com" into their internet search engines - it doesn't make you a fucking expert. If I am sick, I go to a doctor, I don't go to wikipedia. If I need some extremely basic knowledge of a subject I might glance in the direction of wikipedia before double checking things elsewhere. It is certainly useful for dates of historical events and such. But as for understanding the minutiae of a subject... no. So please, don't read someones post, spend ten minutes in wikipedia, then try to deconstruct everything they have said based upon that ten minutes worth of "research". Myself, being a park ranger, will take anyone in this forum to task if they think they can use a half moon as well as me. You guys think you know about cultivating daffodils? Piss off! I am the daffodil cultivator around here, and I can tell you that if you try to beat me down in a thread about daffodils by running off to wikipedia and reading up on how to grow daffodils then you are wasting your time - because I have done it frequently and seen the fruits of my labors. If wikipedia disagrees with me on how to get those daffs standing up and pretty it because wikipedia is wrong.

Thus it is with everyone else on this forum. People here are from all kinds of professions, all kinds of backgrounds, with all kinds of hobbies and interests. You have to understand that it is just possible that they may know more on a subject than you, and the reason they are not agreeing with your copy/pasted wiki posts is because they understand the subject better than you, and you have either misread wikipedia or the wikipedia article is less informed than they are. And this leads us onto our next commandment.

Wikipedia has become more of a "source aggregator"-- you're right that universities tend to frown on students that cite Wikipedia as a source, however, that's because universities are run by old people who had to use books and don't like that young people get off so easily, and they listen to rumors like, "oh anyone can change a wikipedia article, therefore they're ALL unreliable!". I support Wikipedia-- it represents a new generation in information accessibility and has the potential to be a fantastic universal resource so long as we continue to fight against vandals and such. You are correct in saying reading a Wikipedia article does not make one an expert, however, every person should be allowed to pursue information related to a topic-- just because you think you're the absolute shit at raising daffodils does not mean you have absolute authority over all discussions relating to them. If someone reads a wiki article and the information there is incorrect (which happens, although much less frequently in articles where the sources are cited), you should counter with your own information and explain why they are wrong.

cuddly_tomato:
Someone complaining about not having a roof over their heads while rich slobs get a million for a three day week? Of course they are, they are being hurt by the greed of the slob in question. You can't please everyone, and people from two different backgrounds will have two different views, which are completely at odds with each other, but which are both correct for that person.

"Rich slobs", eh? Sounds like a fairly biased point of view. Sure, a person can complain about "rich slobs" taking their money, but that doesn't mean their view should be "respected." Sometimes you have to accept that people are wrong-- isn't the point of debate and discussion to attempt to arrive at a truth? We can't all be winners-- this isn't the special olympics, this is the INTERNET.

cuddly_tomato:
We have to recognise, truly recognise, that someone whose views differ fundamentally from ours is entitled to maintain those views. No, I don't mean this in a wishy-washy "right of free speech" or some kind of failure to commit to ones own beliefs. I mean seriously accepting that this other person is a product of a different environment, different experiences, a different life and these views are right for them. Nobody has a monopoly on truth, nobody here is the ultimate arbiter of the universe, nobody here is so profoundly above the rest of the world that they have been chosen to save it by means of calling someone a retard on a video gaming website. You can't say what is right and wrong view for another person (note; if anyone brings up murder and Hitler and such at this point see commandment #2). Whatever your views are, however moral and logical you think you are, there will always be someone who will disagree with you, and for good reason.

Here I would disagree-- people may be "entitled" to maintain their views by virtue of stubbornness or simply because no one can snap their fingers and change their mind, but not all views are equal. Some views are harmful-- perhaps not in the extreme sense that they drive people to commit violent acts, but that they propagate ignorance. While it is true that no person has a "monopoly on truth", we should all work towards dispelling ignorance as best as we can.

The point of this forum was to get the heated discussions out of the Off Topic section. It (mostly) did that.
I don't want to give up on these kinds of discussions or mute them to the point where we're just prancing around in false niceties just because somebody's feelings might get hurt. Everybody knows what this section of the forum is about.
I'm comfortable with the way it is (and I actually very rarely see open flaming here despite the reputation).

Kubanator:
2 depends on the point of view. They might misinterpret the statement and question it, which is good, but pressing on an outdated statement that was revised by the author does not foster debate.

The point of view here is the aim made by the poster making the post really. If a point is unclear or a mistake is made, that is understandable and unavoidable from time to time. No biggie. The issue tends to arise when someone makes a deliberate issue of something which, really, the poster they are aiming their post at never said. As an example from this very thread;-

"Sure, insult the guy and say he's "overcompensating" because you don't agree with him-- this is how flame wars start. Even if the other guy was a troll, the only reason a discussion dissolves like that is because the people in it decide to "feed the troll.""

When it was clear from the context of the paragraph that it wasn't because I didn't agree with him, but because he derailed an entire discussion by taking something out of context and then attacking a point which was never made in the first place. If Mr HSIAMetalKing responds to this he will be doing the exact same thing as that guy, derailing a thread based upon a point which was never made.

Kubanator:
3 is essentially a prevention of debate. It's a basic use of appeal to authority, and literally prevents any sort of argument from fostering. "This is how you cultivate daffodils. Here is my evidence for my claim." "No, I'm a park ranger, I know how to grow daffodils, you're wrong. I don't need evidence because I know I'm right." See how's there's nothing to discuss?

Yep, this is true. However, what then, is the point of talking with me about daffodils if you won't listen to my advice on how to plant them? I am not going to change how I plant daffodils, and if you go with wiki instead of going with my methods then how really is there a point in continuing the discussion about daffodils? I see a lot of this in this here forum, people at loggerheads and continually going around and around the same points and neither willing to either just move on or to give in to the other persons points. Such things are utterly pointless.

Kubanator:
4 is problematic. Respecting others beliefs is fine, people do need to understand that people hold differing points of view. The problem comes in when you say "You can't say what is right and wrong view for another person". The other person may be misinformed, or you may be misinformed. Either way, one of you will benefit from the discussion. For example, lets say the other person is picking out a health insurance plan. He thinks X is the best. I tell him "No no no, get Y, it's cheap and more comprehensive". So either he realizes that he was misinformed about X being the best, or corrects my misinformation and points out "Y is unreliable and often don't pay up". That's the basis of learning, and out of that discussion, someone will end up better off than before.

I agree that it is wholly problematic, but at the very least I think we should attempt it. The distinction we need to draw is between fact an opinion. In the example you just gave, there is a method of clearly demonstrating that one particular side has his figures wrong. You do him a service by thusly demonstrating this (Faites-vous des amis prompts vous censurer, as Boileu said). But where things become more 'woolly', if you will, we need to be more alert to our own short-comings and the fact that we are not the arbiters of fact. Attacking the beliefs of another, for example, libertarian-capitalist, not because we can establish an error on their part, but basically because our own life experiences have dictated too us that liberal-socialism would be a fairer and more plesant society, is not a wise thing to do. It is entirely possible that in the world from their eyes, which are just as clear as ours, their system makes much more sense.

cuddly_tomato:

"Sure, insult the guy and say he's "overcompensating" because you don't agree with him-- this is how flame wars start. Even if the other guy was a troll, the only reason a discussion dissolves like that is because the people in it decide to "feed the troll.""

When it was clear from the context of the paragraph that it wasn't because I didn't agree with him, but because he derailed an entire discussion by taking something out of context and then attacking a point which was never made in the first place. If Mr HSIAMetalKing responds to this he will be doing the exact same thing as that guy, derailing a thread based upon a point which was never made.

You might have implied something to that effect, but that does not change the fact that you were insulting him based on absolutely nothing-- you don't know anything about that guy, but because he was opposed to your interests you declare that he is "overcompensating for something in his life" and that he is a "nutter." My "point" was that it is the people who respond to trolls, not the trolls themselves, who derail discussions-- a stupid comment by a troll can be easily ignored.

EDIT: and I believe this to be quite in-step with the "point" of this thread-- "some suggestions for us all." I hope that this does not disclude the OP.

cuddly_tomato:
Yep, this is true. However, what then, is the point of talking with me about daffodils if you won't listen to my advice on how to plant them? I am not going to change how I plant daffodils, and if you go with wiki instead of going with my methods then how really is there a point in continuing the discussion about daffodils? I see a lot of this in this here forum, people at loggerheads and continually going around and around the same points and neither willing to either just move on or to give in to the other persons points. Such things are utterly pointless.

If you tell me an idea you hold true, and expect me to hold it true without evidence, that would make me gullible. If you take an idea and explain why it is true, then I may accept it, or may try to find a flaw in your explanation. But if you fail to provide reasoning, or evidence, then you invite others to do the same, which simply turns into a shouting contest of who can shout "I'M RIGHT" the loudest.

cuddly_tomato:
I agree that it is wholly problematic, but at the very least I think we should attempt it. The distinction we need to draw is between fact an opinion. In the example you just gave, there is a method of clearly demonstrating that one particular side has his figures wrong. You do him a service by thusly demonstrating this (Faites-vous des amis prompts vous censurer, as Boileu said). But where things become more 'woolly', if you will, we need to be more alert to our own short-comings and the fact that we are not the arbiters of fact. Attacking the beliefs of another, for example, libertarian-capitalist, not because we can establish an error on their part, but basically because our own life experiences have dictated too us that liberal-socialism would be a fairer and more pleasant society, is not a wise thing to do. It is entirely possible that in the world from their eyes, which are just as clear as ours, their system makes much more sense.

You're essentially referring to religion. For example, any political idea can be rationalized using history, economics, and social science to see if it would work or not. There will be a range of ideas that we will be unsure of, but we still have evidence and facts to make a convincing argument.

Religion has no evidence on either side of the field, as anything can either be dismissed as "God works in mysterious ways" or "That event was improperly documented". Religious belief is not really something that can properly discussed. However, what can be discussed, and should be discussed is religion's effect on society. For example the child molestation cases of priests, or the suppression of gay rights. Or in the other direction, the charity it brings, or the sense of self-importance it brings.

5) Don't use history to judge the current form of something or use historic actions as an exuse to belittle the actual religion/ideal you are opposing

We need a forum for nothing but torture, the death penalty, and telling other people how to debate. Seems like we do this at least once a week.

Demented Teddy:
5) Don't use history to judge the current form of something or use historic actions as an exuse to belittle the actual religion/ideal you are opposing

Depends on the ideal. For example, I cannot say Christianity is bad because in the 1500s, a pope executed 15 heretics. But I can say that Organized Christianity is bad because it allows a moral system to be arbitrarily decided by an individual as demonstrated by a pope killing 15 guys.

Kubanator:

Demented Teddy:
5) Don't use history to judge the current form of something or use historic actions as an exuse to belittle the actual religion/ideal you are opposing

Depends on the ideal. For example, I cannot say Christianity is bad because in the 1500s, a pope executed 15 heretics. But I can say that Organized Christianity is bad because it allows a moral system to be arbitrarily decided by an individual as demonstrated by a pope killing 15 guys.

But your judging the ideal and not it's past actions.
So you see, we agree.

Kubanator:

Religion has no evidence on either side of the field, as anything can either be dismissed as "God works in mysterious ways" or "That event was improperly documented". Religious belief is not really something that can properly discussed. However, what can be discussed, and should be discussed is religion's effect on society. For example the child molestation cases of priests, or the suppression of gay rights. Or in the other direction, the charity it brings, or the sense of self-importance it brings.

Why can't religion be properly discussed? You can discuss the different interpretations of scriptural sources, discuss whether or not it can form proper grounds for a moral and ethical system, the nature if a particular divinity and so on. What is pointless is arguing over whether or not god is real.

Demented Teddy:
5) Don't use history to judge the current form of something or use historic actions as an exuse to belittle the actual religion/ideal you are opposing

I agree with you on this. I think historical actions should only be used to show the contrast between what it was like and what it is like.
And i think you could make a valid pont using a historical action in a following way.
"Although both actions contradict each other the historical action x (lets assume it was something very bad and naty) was based of the same source as action y. Therefore, it is concievable that at some point in time may revert back to similar interpretations of those in action x and follow a similar line of actions. It appears then, based on historical precedent, organisation z has the potential to perform unethical/evil actions similar to those presented by histoical action x and this shows said organisation in a less positive light"

Demented Teddy:
5) Don't use history to judge the current form of something or use historic actions as an exuse to belittle the actual religion/ideal you are opposing

I agree, though if something does not show any positive change since such time you look back upon, then it is still somewhat validated.

EMFCRACKSHOT:
Why can't religion be properly discussed? You can discuss the different interpretations of scriptural sources, discuss whether or not it can form proper grounds for a moral and ethical system, the nature if a particular divinity and so on. What is pointless is arguing over whether or not god is real.

I said the effects of religion can and should be discussed. Differing interpretations cannot truly be argued because it is a personal choice, and the nature of god also cannot be discussed due to the "god works in mysterious ways" argument. The ethical system behind religion is one of its effects, and should be discussed.

Demented Teddy:
5) Don't use history to judge the current form of something or use historic actions as an exuse to belittle the actual religion/ideal you are opposing

This, I feel, is an entire discussion on its own, and is based more on content rather than style, which is the focus of this thread.

On the points articulated in the original post:

1: While a topic is loaded, such as the Glenn Beck threads we start every few days or so, it does not inherently prevent a constructive conversation from taking place. That said, care and craftmanship should be taken in order to make a original post more discussion-oriented rather than the "I think A and who agrees with me?" drool that often comes up.

2: Nitpicking is assholish. However, if it is an assertion, even a very minor one, it is fair game.

3: Complain about Wikipedia all you want, it tends to be fairly accurate in its facts. This is not College Writing 101. You don't need to flip out because its a Wiki source. If you want to rebutt a fact with a Wiki citation, just grab a more accurate citation (World Book, NYTimes, IMDb, etc.).

4: Points of view are just that: points of view. The only way one can try to see another persons point of view is to actually see the experiences which shaped that view. For the more irrational points-of-view (racism, bigotry) finding the reasoning can be impossible.

In theory, any person trying to debate someone should immediately look at the rationale for the other side. However, blatent inaccuracies and straight-out fallacies should be addressed if they arise. You cannot expect to be able to come to solid conclusions if the facts themselves are shaky.

For religion, irrationality and leaps of logic are its basic characteristics, so any discussion must be based on mutual respect for belief systems (not necessarily the views they claim to espouse) instead of an attempt to see how they could believe in such a thing.

My personal take on the state of the Forum? It's just fine right now, with the crazy threads interspersed with the good ones.

6) You may ignore points 1-5 if you use basic manners and common sense. I don't see the main reason that a thread like this is needed. I understand that you are trying to convey your ideas of how others should conduct their discussions and debates on this forum, or at least concepts that you follow when you participate.

The problem with this is that the kind of people that you are making reference to are exactly the kind of people that won't change. From what I've seen here on the Escapist, we have a good community filled with decent people, but like any other forum, we are going to have the immature, self-righteous trolls here and there. Though, other than your frowning on the use of wikipedia(using it for reference is no different from any other kind of reference), I agree with your points, it's the same on a forum as it is in real life: some people are naturally ignorant, self-absorbed, and argumentative. Telling them it's wrong won't change that.

KillerH:
6) You may ignore points 1-5 if you use basic manners and common sense.

Common sense is an uncommon commodity, more's the pity. The same seems to go for manners, at least when topics like politics and religion are involved.

I honestly don't traverse this forum much, thanks to the start pretty much confirming my suspicions that this was an attempt to shovel the flamewars into another section so Off-Topic could be in the clear. I found almost all of it to be mindless diatribe with the odd diamond: and the occasional popping in to check on the state of affairs here reveals little has changed, though the pacing has slowed down a bit.

Kubanator:
But I can say that Organized Christianity is bad because it allows a moral system to be arbitrarily decided by an individual as demonstrated by a pope killing 15 guys.

In a time when killing people for committing crimes was acceptable, and when there were a lot more crimes to be committed that earned you the death penalty?

Even if you were to use a modern example, and say that Organized Religion is bad because things like pedophilia coverups happened, it still doesn't really make sense, because organizations by nature are always capable of such horrific things. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about governments committing genocide, Enron ruining the lives of hundreds of people, or whatever: organizations will always be manipulated by those whose personal interest is at stake. Does that mean that organizations are by nature, evil? Of course not. For every crackpot genociding government and scheming Senator out there, there's a whole bunch of perfectly decent governmental bodies doing their best to make the lives of their compatriots as painless as possible.

All we can do, as part of the machine of organization, is attempt to remove the flawed bits caused by criminals, maniacs, and other disturbing individuals, both by attempting to prevent problems and by fixing them when they inevitably arise. More's the pity, sometimes those in charge of doing both fail miserably at their job. Does that say more about the system, or those individuals within it?

One could actually argue that the organization of religion is crucial, as it prevents such things as schisms and power struggles, which in the grand scheme of things would be even worse.

#4 seems to promote Relativism, to which I direct thee to the "Child Sacrifice in Uganda" thread.

The Gentleman:

2: Nitpicking is assholish. However, if it is an assertion, even a very minor one, it is fair game.

My second point was less about nitpicking and more to do with trying to answer points which were never even made in the first place. A good example is this point you made, which compounded an error I made...

The Gentleman:
3: Complain about Wikipedia all you want, it tends to be fairly accurate in its facts. This is not College Writing 101. You don't need to flip out because its a Wiki source. If you want to rebutt a fact with a Wiki citation, just grab a more accurate citation (World Book, NYTimes, IMDb, etc.).

Now this is actually my fault, not yours, because my original post made such a hue and cry about wikipedia. What I was trying to get across was that having internet access, and the wealth of information it contains, is no substitute for study and experience of a given topic. Quite aside from the fact that much of the information on the internet is tripe anyway, without a tutor or without a solid background in the field of a subject one can never achieve anything more than a superficial knowledge compared to someone actually doing something involving whatever it is they are talking about.

scotth266:

KillerH:
6) You may ignore points 1-5 if you use basic manners and common sense.

Common sense is an uncommon commodity, more's the pity. The same seems to go for manners, at least when topics like politics and religion are involved.

Precisely. Common sense dictates that when one comes up against someone who knows what they are talking about because it is his job, who has views which he have been shaped by twenty years of life experience, or because just screaming at him won't work, a five minute forum post isn't going to have much of a dent on that view so it is pointless to try to change it through force of text. However, this common sense proposal doesn't seem particularly prevalent on internet forums.

Honestly, this thread is nothing to do with manners and how one conducts themself with respect towards his fellow man, this thread is more to do with how to communicate ones ideas and opinions with a some degree of quality, so that ones own points are not lost in fire, so to speak.

Someone standing on a street corner ranting while wearing a sandwich board might get more attention than a man just offering honest advice, but he sure won't be taken as seriously.

Kubanator:

cuddly_tomato:
I agree that it is wholly problematic, but at the very least I think we should attempt it. The distinction we need to draw is between fact an opinion. In the example you just gave, there is a method of clearly demonstrating that one particular side has his figures wrong. You do him a service by thusly demonstrating this (Faites-vous des amis prompts vous censurer, as Boileu said). But where things become more 'woolly', if you will, we need to be more alert to our own short-comings and the fact that we are not the arbiters of fact. Attacking the beliefs of another, for example, libertarian-capitalist, not because we can establish an error on their part, but basically because our own life experiences have dictated too us that liberal-socialism would be a fairer and more pleasant society, is not a wise thing to do. It is entirely possible that in the world from their eyes, which are just as clear as ours, their system makes much more sense.

You're essentially referring to religion. For example, any political idea can be rationalized using history, economics, and social science to see if it would work or not. There will be a range of ideas that we will be unsure of, but we still have evidence and facts to make a convincing argument.

Religion has no evidence on either side of the field, as anything can either be dismissed as "God works in mysterious ways" or "That event was improperly documented". Religious belief is not really something that can properly discussed. However, what can be discussed, and should be discussed is religion's effect on society. For example the child molestation cases of priests, or the suppression of gay rights. Or in the other direction, the charity it brings, or the sense of self-importance it brings.

Nope. It covers all aspects of life. I am going to assume you are a regular guy for the purposes of my argument here, and suggest that you eat meat. I would also suggest that while you dislike unnecessary cruelty to animals, you pragmatically understand the needs for meat in the population and that some sacrifices to animal welfare have to be made in order to feed everyone. I disagree with that, and I believe that animal welfare is paramount. To this end, I will only eat absolutely ethically organically farmed meat, that came from an animal which has spent its life being looked after to an exceptional standard, even though that meat costs more.

My view is right for me, even though it might not necessarily be for you.

Kubanator:

cuddly_tomato:
Yep, this is true. However, what then, is the point of talking with me about daffodils if you won't listen to my advice on how to plant them? I am not going to change how I plant daffodils, and if you go with wiki instead of going with my methods then how really is there a point in continuing the discussion about daffodils? I see a lot of this in this here forum, people at loggerheads and continually going around and around the same points and neither willing to either just move on or to give in to the other persons points. Such things are utterly pointless.

If you tell me an idea you hold true, and expect me to hold it true without evidence, that would make me gullible. If you take an idea and explain why it is true, then I may accept it, or may try to find a flaw in your explanation. But if you fail to provide reasoning, or evidence, then you invite others to do the same, which simply turns into a shouting contest of who can shout "I'M RIGHT" the loudest.

Exactly! So in these circumstances, it is better to just let the matter drop and move onto something else.

HSIAMetalKing:

Wikipedia has become more of a "source aggregator"-- you're right that universities tend to frown on students that cite Wikipedia as a source, however, that's because universities are run by old people who had to use books and don't like that young people get off so easily, and they listen to rumors like, "oh anyone can change a wikipedia article, therefore they're ALL unreliable!". I support Wikipedia-- it represents a new generation in information accessibility and has the potential to be a fantastic universal resource so long as we continue to fight against vandals and such.

Universities don't like you citing Wikipedia because it's useless for academia, much like in the pre-internet days, universities didn't like you citing the Encyclopaedia Britannica. If you want to get a quick intro to a subject with Wikipedia, fine. Then go read a textbook for more detailed background, then read peer-reviewed journal articles.

Encyclopaedias can often be below degree level standard knowledge, so why cite them at all if you are studying for a degree or higher? Encyclopaedias are generally at their best when the compiler has researched the topic using academic sources. If you're in academia, why are you citing that "middleman" rather than going straight for the peer-reviewed articles and books that they cite?

And just who is that middleman? Someone who writes a review article in a peer-reviewed journal is an expert in the direct field, and you can even check they are, what they've done and whether they really are any good. Who compiles a "professional" encyclopaedia entry is generally someone roughly in the same area of learning, and you might be able to find out who they are and whether they are reliable. Wikipedia is written by anyone, and even a large conglomeration of anyones can't be trusted, especially when they are anonymous so their competence and potential bias are hidden. How do you know they got their citation right? How do you know they haven't cherry-picked their sources? And so on.

All of this is an anathema to academic good practice.

Agema:

HSIAMetalKing:

Wikipedia has become more of a "source aggregator"-- you're right that universities tend to frown on students that cite Wikipedia as a source, however, that's because universities are run by old people who had to use books and don't like that young people get off so easily, and they listen to rumors like, "oh anyone can change a wikipedia article, therefore they're ALL unreliable!". I support Wikipedia-- it represents a new generation in information accessibility and has the potential to be a fantastic universal resource so long as we continue to fight against vandals and such.

Universities don't like you citing Wikipedia because it's useless for academia, much like in the pre-internet days, universities didn't like you citing the Encyclopaedia Britannica. If you want to get a quick intro to a subject with Wikipedia, fine. Then go read a textbook for more detailed background, then read peer-reviewed journal articles.

Encyclopaedias can often be below degree level standard knowledge, so why cite them at all if you are studying for a degree or higher? Encyclopaedias are generally at their best when the compiler has researched the topic using academic sources. If you're in academia, why are you citing that "middleman" rather than going straight for the peer-reviewed articles and books that they cite?

And just who is that middleman? Someone who writes a review article in a peer-reviewed journal is an expert in the direct field, and you can even check they are, what they've done and whether they really are any good. Who compiles a "professional" encyclopaedia entry is generally someone roughly in the same area of learning, and you might be able to find out who they are and whether they are reliable. Wikipedia is written by anyone, and even a large conglomeration of anyones can't be trusted, especially when they are anonymous so their competence and potential bias are hidden. How do you know they got their citation right? How do you know they haven't cherry-picked their sources? And so on.

All of this is an anathema to academic good practice.

Like I said, it is a "source aggregator"-- I always recommend that people pursue the sources cited in Wikipedia articles to decide whether or not it is reliable. For academics, Wikipedia can function as a well-organized, topic-based search engine-- each article is an elongated index with long descriptions for the user's convenience. I can wade through lists and lists generated by university library search engines, however, that can take forever. What, I'm going to look for information about a topic using random key words and then hunt down the books/articles/journals and skim through them in the hopes I find what I'm looking for? Hell no-- Wikipedia can at least serve as a starting point that allows me to get "in the ball park" of what I'm looking for.

Regarding Wikipedia's "middle man"-- I would argue that the collective wisdom of many authors will eventually shape Wikipedia into a perfect reference tool. The aggregation of many ideas shared over time inevitably results in a more perfect decision than a single individual is capable of, so I tend to trust it even more than articles written by a single person. Sure, Wikipedia isn't infallible... yet.

HSIAMetalKing:

Like I said, it is a "source aggregator"-- I always recommend that people pursue the sources cited in Wikipedia articles to decide whether or not it is reliable. For academics, Wikipedia can function as a well-organized, topic-based search engine-- each article is an elongated index with long descriptions for the user's convenience. I can wade through lists and lists generated by university library search engines, however, that can take forever. What, I'm going to look for information about a topic using random key words and then hunt down the books/articles/journals and skim through them in the hopes I find what I'm looking for? Hell no-- Wikipedia can at least serve as a starting point that allows me to get "in the ball park" of what I'm looking for.

Regarding Wikipedia's "middle man"-- I would argue that the collective wisdom of many authors will eventually shape Wikipedia into a perfect reference tool. The aggregation of many ideas shared over time inevitably results in a more perfect decision than a single individual is capable of, so I tend to trust it even more than articles written by a single person. Sure, Wikipedia isn't infallible... yet.

I think you're looking at Wikipedia from the perspective of - I'm pretty sure you must be from your comments - an undergraduate.

If you stay in academia to a postgraduate level, you'll realise just how limited Wikipedia actually is in terms of detail. You'll stop using university library search engines, and use specialist ones like PubMed or Web of Knowledge. You'll learn how to use those engines properly, rather than trying random keywords. You'll also realise that a journal article is in a sense written by many authors, that sense being that the author(s) has based their work on a consensus view of previous work (the allegorical "giant" that Newton stood on, if you like) that amounts to the information from many minds you'd find in a Wiki article, except more advanced and all the minds were experts.

Wikipedia will never overtake academia, because Wikipedia relies on the work done by academia to be distilled into its articles; unless it undergoes an astonishing increase in size, it could never even come close to the complexity.

I'm not dissing Wikipedia generally - it's a useful layman's tool. But it's not academia, and shouldn't be cited in academic work.

It makes no sense to not cite Wikipedia simply because it is Wikipedia-- obviously you won't find the detailed information contained in "academic works" in the few paragraphs of a Wikipedia article, however, it still contains huge amounts of relevant information that is constantly being updated. And if the information you find there is reliable, and especially if it cites a reliable source, you should be allowed to use it. And I maintain that there is value in the fact that those articles are generated by the public as opposed to "academics."

I'm not suggesting that Wikipedia is more than it is-- most articles are no longer than a single page and I doubt any of them can hold a candle to the ridiculous tomes churned out by academics (I've always wondered if it's true that they're paid by the word). But while an old, outdated text about some academic-topic will only continue to be outdated and clog "academia" with its uselessness until the end of time, Wikipedia articles have the potential to remain trim and accurate as the site itself continues to expand.

To put it bluntly, you don't seem to me to understand the citation process.

You say yourself "if the information there is reliable, and especially if it cites a reliable source"

The information on Wikipedia is reliable because it cites a reliable source, which you need to check to make sure Wikipedia is reliable. However, why would you not cite the reliable base article? There is of course another flaw with Wikipedia. As an ever-changing database, what you cite from an article and even the sources it is based on might be removed or altered when people check your Wikipedia citation. In this sense, your work potentially stops making sense the minute someone puts an alteration in.

Academia is not "clogged" by "outdated" work. Old work allows academics to trace back where the current state of knowledge comes from. If you can't see the value in this, I don't think you understand the process of research either. If you can't get a reasonably up-to-date textbook with all the resources universities have available, it's your own problem.

As for the rest, you're now just drifting into onto the verge of being anti-academic. If academia doesn't suit you, fine. But take it from me (as a postdoc with teaching duties), you really do not understand the academic process, and you are getting above yourself to proclaim your Wikipedia-led way superior.

Agema:
To put it bluntly, you don't seem to me to understand the citation process.

You say yourself "if the information there is reliable, and especially if it cites a reliable source"

The information on Wikipedia is reliable because it cites a reliable source, which you need to check to make sure Wikipedia is reliable. However, why would you not cite the reliable base article? There is of course another flaw with Wikipedia. As an ever-changing database, what you cite from an article and even the sources it is based on might be removed or altered when people check your Wikipedia citation. In this sense, your work potentially stops making sense the minute someone puts an alteration in.

Academia is not "clogged" by "outdated" work. Old work allows academics to trace back where the current state of knowledge comes from. If you can't see the value in this, I don't think you understand the process of research either. If you can't get a reasonably up-to-date textbook with all the resources universities have available, it's your own problem.

As for the rest, you're now just drifting into onto the verge of being anti-academic. If academia doesn't suit you, fine. But take it from me (as a postdoc with teaching duties), you really do not understand the academic process, and you are getting above yourself to proclaim your Wikipedia-led way superior.

Actually I now want to use wikipedia even more. In circumstances that don't permit it. Due to this thread. Luddites will always exist and attempt to halt progress in ways that are more laughable one day to the next.

Thou shalt not post self-righteous topics telling others what to do and insulting people who disagree with your behavioral commandments.

Seanchaidh:
Thou shalt not post self-righteous topics telling others what to do and insulting people who disagree with your behavioral commandments.

Amen, Sir.

Anyone who goes to Wikipedia to look up daffodils is a pansy.

Kortney:
Anyone who goes to Wikipedia to look up daffodils is a pansy.

Perhaps you'd prefer tulips? We got a nice fernery going actually, even in this weather.

Seanchaidh:
Thou shalt not post self-righteous topics telling others what to do and insulting people who disagree with your behavioral commandments.

you get a cookie

Kortney:
Anyone who goes to Wikipedia to look up daffodils is a pansy.

and you get this sack of money if you can grab it from my ha-hey! I didn't say go yet >_>

TypeSD:
Actually I now want to use wikipedia even more. In circumstances that don't permit it. Due to this thread. Luddites will always exist and attempt to halt progress in ways that are more laughable one day to the next.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Wikipedia, both the concept and function. The objection is not technological, it is that Wikipedia is not the right tool for advanced learning because it is insufficiently reliable and not deep enough (if it were sufficiently deep, it would be unreadable to a layman).

Give it a few decades, who knows. But in it's current form, it is not fit for purpose for degree level and above.

Agema:

TypeSD:
Actually I now want to use wikipedia even more. In circumstances that don't permit it. Due to this thread. Luddites will always exist and attempt to halt progress in ways that are more laughable one day to the next.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of Wikipedia, both the concept and function. The objection is not technological, it is that Wikipedia is not the right tool for advanced learning because it is insufficiently reliable and not deep enough (if it were sufficiently deep, it would be unreadable to a layman).

Give it a few decades, who knows. But in it's current form, it is not fit for purpose for degree level and above.

Is a gaming website really the place for "degree level" posting? It's for a source of information, primarily, and I usually go and check how the wiki article itself is sourced. Which is a common trick in any degree I know, or have completed, for that matter.

TypeSD:

Is a gaming website really the place for "degree level" posting? It's for a source of information, primarily, and I usually go and check how the wiki article itself is sourced. Which is a common trick in any degree I know, or have completed, for that matter.

This line came about because someone criticised universities for not accepting citations of Wikipedia, so we'd drifted off topic a little.

I'd agree that an internet forum is generally below degree level (although it doesn't have to be). Wikipedia is a perfectly good source for forum debates, I use it quite happily for that purpose.

I would also agree Wikipedia is a reasonable start point even for degree level research (although generally if you're working on something I'd expect you have the sort of detail in a Wiki article in your lectures, course materials etc.) However, your citations and detail should be from books and articles.

Agema:

TypeSD:

Is a gaming website really the place for "degree level" posting? It's for a source of information, primarily, and I usually go and check how the wiki article itself is sourced. Which is a common trick in any degree I know, or have completed, for that matter.

This line came about because someone criticised universities for not accepting citations of Wikipedia, so we'd drifted off topic a little.

I'd agree that an internet forum is generally below degree level (although it doesn't have to be). Wikipedia is a perfectly good source for forum debates, I use it quite happily for that purpose.

I would also agree Wikipedia is a reasonable start point even for degree level research (although generally if you're working on something I'd expect you have the sort of detail in a Wiki article in your lectures, course materials etc.) However, your citations and detail should be from books and articles.

I'm aware of this, I am in my final semester of a degree, thanks.

TypeSD:
I'm aware of this, I am in my final semester of a degree, thanks.

Sorry. When you quoted me with a reply you wanted to cite Wikipedia inappropriately due to Luddite mentality, I assumed you had no idea whatsoever what I was saying. As that was evidently just a logical non-sequitur and you actually do, I guess we may as well let the matter drop.

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